Reflected light is an important part of realistic painting. This is especially true when painting outdoors where direct light from the sun is so powerful. Bad landscape paintings have no reflected light or ridiculously exaggerated reflected light. No reflected light is a product of too much reliance on photographic reference material. The camera is lousy at capturing reflected light outdoors under most conditions. This is why photographs have overly black shadows. The range of light and shadow in most outdoor scenes is beyond the capabilities of most cameras. When painting from life it is important to be aware of the properties of reflected light and how they affect the scene you are looking at.
Anything that has direct light falling on it in a scene becomes a source of light itself.
You can prove this to yourself by going outside on a sunny day with a colorful object and placing it close to the shadow side of any other object, while the colorful object is still in sunlight. It will drastically alter the color of the shadow. If the object being lit is light enough and reflective enough it can even affect other objects in the sunlight.
Reflected light is never as strong as its source light
This is a problem for most beginners who tend to focus on color and are oblivious to value shifts. In most situations, reflected light belongs to the shadow and as such it must support, not compete with the lighted areas of your painting. While it can be effective to exaggerate the chroma of reflected light, raising its value too much will ruin the effect completely.
Reflected light is a combination of the local color of the object sending the light, the object receiving the light and the quality and color of the source light and ambient light in the scene.
As you can see once you have multiple sources of light like the sky and other objects, reflected light becomes a very unique phenomena dependant on all the other aspects of the scene. You can imagine that the combinations of colors these reflections will produce are not predictable. This is why direct observation and field studies are so important and can never be replaced by photographic reference alone.
“Now the man that invented the steam drill
He thought he was mighty fine
But John Henry drove fifteen feet
The steam drill only made nine”
The above lyrics are from the old American folk tale and song about ability against technology. Many people have recorded the song, but my favorite version is from Harry Belafonte, recorded in 1954. You can hear it here
I am no Luddite when it comes to technology; I have been working with computers since the mid seventies and began using Photoshop during its first version. Tech has always been a part of my life and I am always looking to use it to free myself from the drudgery of menial tasks. There is a difference though, between using tech as a tool and using it in place of thinking or ability. This is the problem with all tech; people come to rely on it to give them an advantage that they don’t have the skills for otherwise, nowhere is this more apparent than the field of visual art.
Tech affects the business side of art as well as with people who couldn’t get into a gallery, now selling their work on eBay or over the net for next to nothing. In the old days these people were confined by their lack of ability to the areas they lived in. Now, with tech, they can have a website and advertise for free to people around the world. What this does is it creates pressure to commoditize art; to make it a widget and mass produce it like any other thing being made in the same way… as much as possible and as cheap as possible. Tech allows you to have no committment to a craft. You can dabble and still teach high school or work at an office. Ebay is up 24 hours selling for you.
You see this with the daily painters and plein air painting. Because these paintings are made alla prima in a few hours, people sell them for next to nothing carrying on that factory worker mentality, working for an hourly wage. What people like the daily painters and most plein air painter groups don’t realize is any good artist paints every day and most good artists paint from life. The idea that somehow practicing these things is special or noteworthy, just shows you how low the bar is set these days. The daily painters are particularly laughable in boasting about creating paintings smaller than 6×8 every day. The focus is not on the paintings quality but its price.
Plein air painting is not far behind, with most painters lacking the skill to paint anything except the simplest of motifs. Plein air painting has now become what western art was in the seventies or wildlife art was in the eighties; a place where the least amount of ability allows you to participate and still call yourself an artist. People whose abilities are masked by the fact they paint outdoors and pass off their limitations as a style and a genre of painting, which it isn’t.
Social networking, another tech invention, has convinced people that what you are doing every minute of the day is important. This electronic voyeurism has artists racing to post their images on ning or facebook and then tell everyone on twitter. The side effect of these social media is that the painting itself becomes a byproduct of its promotion, it convinces people with mediocre skills that ability is unimportant; it is networking and marketing that creates your success. Fame is now more important than talent, and what tech does more than anything is it allows people to become noticed without having to earn that notoriety with ability and hard work.
Before you agree to be represented by a fine art gallery, many things need to be discussed with the gallery. One very important matter is the “territory” the gallery will control. Many galleries ask for an area of fifty miles from the gallery. In some large metropolitan markets, like San Francisco or Boston, a gallery may ask for a 100 mile radius. This makes sense because of the geographic spread of a large city. When the gallery runs local advertising, the reach of that advertising is usually within the “territory”. In some rural markets, galleries only ask for a few miles for their coverage. Knowing and abiding by the boundaries and limitations of your gallery’s representation will go a long way in creating a mutually beneficial relationship with your gallery.
Giving the gallery the “territory” means the gallery receives a cut of your sales in that area. It also means you will refrain from having private shows in that area, unless you have the gallery’s permission to do so. This prevents artists from participating in plein air shows, craft fairs, art and wine festivals, Open Studios, etc. in the territory, thus diluting the galleries ability to make money. I usually ask for the right to participate in two shows a year within the territory, although I rarely use that privilege.
The newest twist in requiring a territory for a gallery is the internet. Even though the internet has been around for years since Al Gore invented it, e-commerce has only finally trickled down to small businesses (galleries) in the last five years or so. Before that, no one expected a small business to have or maintain a web presence. Now most businesses require a website in order to stay competitive. Most people search for galleries using their computer or PDA and expect to be able to see art at any time of the day or night, no matter what time zone they reside.
I have heard of galleries demanding that their artists have no websites. In addition, some of these galleries require that if their artists insist on having a website, the site can only display examples of their work and not any artist contact information. This is an unreasonable demand. To allow a gallery to control your internet presence is giving the gallery the territory of the entire world! Unless a gallery will guarantee enough sales to support you and your family, there is no reason to agree to such unfair terms.
Most galleries tend to be regionally focused, selling only local scenes. I paint a much broader range of subject matter than any one gallery is willing to sell, so it makes sense that I post all of my work on my website, link to the gallery that has the paintings, or refer the customer to myself, if I have the work in my possession.
Why do some galleries insist on controlling their artists’ websites?Primarily because some artists are dishonest with their galleries. The artists are contacted by the potential buyer about a particular painting that is located at a gallery. Often the customer has seen the painting on the gallery website. The customer contacts the artist, hoping for a substantial discount by purchasing the piece from the artist. The artist undercuts a gallery by pulling paintings to sell directly to a client. Most galleries will discontinue representation of the artist if they discover the artist is being dishonest. Pulling paintings from a gallery to sell to a customer is the equivalent of stealing from the gallery.
I control my website. My partner, Diane Burket, maintains the Armand Cabrera website and we split the site into different categories, including:Artwork For Sale By The ArtistArtwork For Sale By My GalleriesWorkshops & Classes
My Contact Information
The artwork for the galleries has a link to the gallery showing the paintings and also the gallery contact information. If a client contacts us directly and asks about a painting consigned at a gallery, we direct them to the gallery. This is the only way to share an internet presence of your work. Through my website, I extend the galleries reach to new, potential Armand Cabrera art customers. Because of my press, standing in the art community and hard work, my website gets more traffic than most of my galleries’ websites. It would be foolish for my galleries to demand I take my site down or eliminate my contact information. I am an ethical, honest person. Removing my contact info or taking down my site would only hurt my gallery’s business.
So, please be honest with your galleries—but stand your ground. A website is a very important tool for an artist and for your galleries. Support your galleries by linking to their websites and being an honest artist.
by Armand Cabrera
Rose Frantzen’s show is a stunning tour de force of alla prima portrait painting. One hundred and eighty 12×12 portraits painted on what looks like half inch panels which are not framed. Each portrait was painted in four or five hours from life. Anyone willing to take the time to sit for her was accepted.
What emerges besides the individual personalities is a sensitive group portrait of a town. You begin to get the sense of a relatively small community (population 5917). Frantzen’s ability to record the subtleties of each person’s skin tones is amazing. Each portrait captures a moment in time with the sitter, without excessive flattery.
When you think of what it would take to paint 180 portraits from life in a year’s time you understand the power of her accomplishment. Now add to that the level of quality of these paintings and you realize you are standing before something special. This woman is truly one of the best painters in the country at this time. Her abilities are formidable, combining broad facile brushwork with a beautiful color sense and keen eye for values.
If you are living in the Mid-Atlantic Area, or have the means to travel here from farther away, this is a chance to see a living painters work as accomplished as Sargent or Beaux. The show is on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery until July 5 2010, don’t miss it. The show is accompanied by a hardcover catalog which has faithfully captured the paintings.
All images in this review are by Rose Frantzen the copyrights are held by her.